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Conflict: The Basis For Latin American Change (Born In Blood And Fire: A Concise History Of Latin America)

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Autor:   •  March 13, 2011  •  1,744 Words (7 Pages)  •  463 Views

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The expansive empires of the Aztecs and Incas, came crashing down, upon the arrival of Spaniards in the New World. The birth of colonial nations came about in the same stride that death came to indigenous populations. Modern Latin America has conflict built into its system because that is what it has mostly seen for the past five hundred years. In Born in Blood and Fire: A Concise History of Latin America, John Charles Chasteen supports the argument that Latin America's problems developed due to its violent origins and history of conquest. From the conquest, through colonialism and revolutions, to modern day, violence has always been a main player in the advancement of Latin America. Chasteen has left me with a greater comprehension of our neighbors' history and our influence in its maturation from colonial seed to what we have today.

Cortes and Pizarro were both the masterminds of conquest of the largest empires in Latin America. Cortes' conquest of the Aztecs was rife with luck, due to local legends and biological reasons unbeknownst to him, and violence. Through a capture-the-leader strategy that was very popular with the Spanish, Cortes and his men were able to topple the empire that at the time, its capital had a larger population than Madrid or Lisbon (Chasteen 31). Pizarro also had the same results with the Incas, killing tens of thousands with his miniscule arrangement of conquistadors. But once their swords were sheathed and their guns holstered. The native populations continued to disappear due to their vulnerability to foreign germs. This decimation of the New World's population would not end Western Europe's tyrannical exploits in the New World but would only shift their focus to another socially despicable act, slavery. The purpose of settling these lands was for profit, so with no large working force available from indigenous populations the Europeans turned to African slaves. Any country that has had slavery, as our own, sees that even after the abolishment of this institution racist attitudes and social structures remain. Slavery only added to the spirit of repression in the colonies which throughout history usually leads to rebellion. This division, and setting up of classes with whites on top, then mestizos, blacks, and indigenous people would shape the next few centuries in the Latin America.

With the Enlightenment spreading across Europe, a period marked by revolutions sprung up across the world. With news of the American Revolution, the French Revolution spreading throughout the world, everyone started examining their own governments. With the first revolution in the Caribbean happening in Haiti, the spread of this revolutionary anti-colonialism thinking reached the shores of Latin America and would mark the nineteenth century with revolutions.

We can see Chasteen's argument that Latin America's origins shaped the way its history unfolded clearly in the case of Mexico. The class system model was such a great part of the environment at the time that cousins could become enemies. The divisions between poor and rich have always been apparent, and in the case of Latin America race played an important role also. Creoles and peninsulares both were at the top of the food chain in Mexico; their differences very slim as only one generation in America would turn a peninsular into a creole. The need for the division was also brought about by the conquest period, to separate the whitest of the white from those who already lost some of the "Spanish-ness" in the New World. The creoles did not like that peninsulares got the best positions in the New World over them, though not always qualified. This problem arose over materialism, which had been the sole reason for Latin America's conception in the first place, and throughout its history led to conflict. The division between parties you would think to be allies was all that was needed for the first revolutionaries to take to the streets and inspire lower class Mexicans to stand up against the oppressors, as Hidalgo and Morelos did, though they did not succeed greatly (100-01). Simon Bolivar and Jose San Martin would step in a few years later to end Spanish control of American affairs, but the end of colonial rule did not mean the end of conflict for the Latin nations; it merely turned into a game of musical chairs as to who would sit in the leader's seat. The problems were there to stay, as even Bolivar, a man who helped liberate five nations, said of his deeds, "[I] plowed the sea [accomplishing nothing]" (112).

Throughout the 1800s Latin America was trying to catch up with the rest of the Western world, progressing with increased exports, manufacturing, and industrialization. These advances did not stop the internal problems of most Latin nations. With these changes, as in the rest of the world, there was a growth in urban populations and in the middle class, adding another layer in the social structure; which in turn is just another group that will vie for power, and benefits from the government (180-90). This period is characterized with a large amount of wealth being concentrated in the hands of a few, which on paper shows great economic progress in the form of a GDP number, but there was still great wealth disparity. The switch, in Latin America, from conservatives in the early part of the 1800s, to liberals for the latter half, eventually turned to authoritarian governance; the democratic goals liberals set out to achieve were trashed for power and economic benefits, in keeping with previous generations (191). Chasteen's depiction of the Porfiriato in Mexico is a prime example of the type of rule prevalent throughout American society at the time, with fraud, corruption, and propaganda on the forefront of Porfirio Diaz's oligarchic rule (193). This period of harsh treatment against the masses built up the spirit of betrayal that again resulted in a revolution; this time on a grand scale: The Mexican Revolution. This cyclical action of promises, overthrowing the oppostion, gaining power, straying away from promises has been followed in nearly all Latin American countries and has become inherent in the way of doing things there due to it being the only prevalent model for change in its history.

Chasteen exposed some facets of Latin American history that

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